SUNY Oswego Students Return from Storm Chasing Trip

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OSWEGO, N.Y. (WHEC) — Training the next round of meteorologists. That is what one program is doing at SUNY Oswego. Students have recently returned from an annual storm-chasing trip where they travel around the country chasing nature’s most powerful thunderstorms.

Zoe Bush, a student of the class, says “It was a lot of excitement, but also just stood there like wow! You’re lost for words, you see these pictures in a textbook and now you’re seeing it in real life. It’s just like wow!”

Another student, Matthew Lynn, adds “You’re really just amazed on how big and grand it is, what you’re seeing and what the atmosphere can do. It’s the perfect place to do so, feelings of amazement and excitement."

The professor who runs the storm chasing class is Dr. Scott Steiger. He has been doing this trip every year since 2007, with the exception of the last two years due to the pandemic. He’s glad that the class was back for this year, and loves seeing the excitement on his students’ faces. “That’s where I’m most in my element. I love being outside and seeing the lightbulbs go off above students heads as they’re seeing things," says Steiger.

Scott adds that this puts the class work into perspective, ”In our case, the laboratory for meteorologists is outside! So, you get a much better sense of how storms behave so that they can become better at predicting how those storms will behave." There are no set destinations for the class, and this year’s class travelled all throughout the Midwest and Central US to catch the storms. “We started off in Indiana, and then made our way up to South Dakota, and then to Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and then back up," mentions Zoe.

The weather up here in Western New York can be impressive at times, but there is no comparing it to what occurs out west. The students say the experience is life changing. “It seems that the only real only storm experience you can have here is by being in the middle of the storm. You can’t really see it. Whereas out there the storms are much more isolated, you can see them much further away, and much more structure away," says Adam Nahar, another student of the class. Matthew Lynne grew up here in Western New York and adds, “I’ve grown up here so I’ve never seen supercells and these severe thunderstorms that happen out there."

This year’s class was not able to see a tornado, but a lot of other fascinating phenomena was witnessed. Dr. Steiger exclaims, “Near Midland-Odessa, TX we were driving on a road that have several inches of hail on it. That is something I have never seen before in all my years of chasing. I’ve heard of it happening, but I have never seen it personally. We saw funnel clouds, supercell thunderstorms."

When the students returned they conducted field studies and reports on what they saw, and Dr. Steiger even extended the invite to me for next year’s trip. So, maybe at this time next year instead of reporting from Rochester I’ll be out chasing a twister.